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Ocular Health

The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is based at Purdue University. The first CERF exam for a Spanish Water Dog was conducted in 2003. By June 2006, CERF recorded 36 Spanish Water Dogs that “passed” the exam and additionally the diagnoses of those that have failed. Documentation on passing dogs, and also more in-depth discussions of eye conditions may be found on the CERF website (http://www.vmdb.org/cerf.html).

The Spanish Water Dog Club of America (SWDCA) receives an annual report from CERF identifying the ocular disorders registered in our breed. To date, the following disorders have been reported in the United States.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals also offers an Eye Registration which certifies a dogs eyes for heritable eye diseases.  Results can be found on the OFA website.

Category A:  EYELIDS

Distichiasis: An abnormal location of eyelashes on the margin of the eyelid, causing irritation and possible scarring of the lens.

Distichia (dih-STIK-ee-ah) has been reported in 68 breeds, including the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog and Spanish Water Dog. Generally, distichia first occurs by the dog’s six month.

Mode of inheritance: undetermined.


Gland Prolapse: Clinically, the gland protrudes into the medial canthus of the eye. This tissue becomes swollen and reddened, resulting in the term “Cherry Eye.”

Reported in 23 breeds, including the Poodle and Spanish Water Dog. Detectable within the first year.

Mode of inheritance: undetermined.

Category D:  IRIS

Persistent Pupillary Membranes, Iris to Iris: A failure of blood vessels in the anterior chamber to regress normally in fetal development, often resulting in impaired vision or blindness.

PPMs are reported in more than 68 breeds, including the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog and Spanish Water Dog. Detectable by 3 months.

Mode of inheritance: undetermined.


As a generality, any lens opacity that obscures vision and may cause blindness is considered a cataract. Types of cataracts vary by breed and age of onset.

Cataracts are reported in 128 breeds including the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Puli, and Spanish Water Dog.

Mode of inheritance in Poodles is shown to be recessive and the cataracts are detectable by 3 years of age; in other breeds, the mode of inheritance is undetermined. The types of cataracts reported in Spanish Water Dogs are:

Anterior Cortex Punctate Cataracts (Significance Unknown)

Capsular Cataracts (Significance Unknown)

Nucleus Punctate Cataracts (Significance Unknown)

Category G:  FUNDUS

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A category of degenerative diseases of the retinal vision cells, which cause blindness. Reported in 120 breeds, including the Spanish Water Dog, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog.

In October, 2006, efforts by OptiGen and SWDCA Club Health & Wellness determined that Spanish Water Dogs carry the prcd-PRA form of PRA.

The prcd form of PRA causes the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate as the dog matures. The "rod" cells (which operate in low light) are the first to degenerate, leading to night blindness. Eventually, the "cone" (high light) cells also degenerate, resulting in full blindness.

Mode of inheritance: simple recessive.

PRA status (clear, carrier, or affected) can be determined through DNA testing with OptiGen. Affected dogs may also be diagnosed through routine eye exams after night blindness as set in.

Retinal Dysplasia Folds (Significance Unknown): Linear, triangular, curved, or curvilinear foci of retinal folding that may be single or multiple. When seen in puppies this condition may partially or completely resolve with maturity. Areas of folding may cause small blind spots in the field of vision.

The significance of Retinal Dysplasia folds is unknown.


Known DNA results for prcd-PRA

OptiGen reports the following update to numbers of PRA-tested dogs worldwide:



October 2006 through December 31, 2015


Clear/Normal:  444

Carrier: 194

Affected: 16

Total: 654


Note: Early testing data is often misleading, as sampling tends to be narrow (from a small number of kennels instead of a wide sample throughout the population). As sampling increases, percentages become more representative.

Countries included in the above tally are: Finland, USA, Canada, Spain, and Poland. No other countries are known to have tested at this time.

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